Piracy off the coast of Nigeria and Pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region are increasing at an alarming rate. A peace deal was signed in 2009 between the Nigerian government and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to curb militancy and stealing of crude oil off tanker ships. After the agreement, pirate attacks within Nigeria waterways reduced but in mid-2015till date, there has been a comeback of piracy. At least 32 attacks off the coast of Nigeria were recorded between January and April this year. The Gulf of Guinea has now become the most pirated area in the world beating out Somali in East Africa. Pipeline vandalism has also remained an intractable challenge to the Nigerian oil and gas dependent economy. Coming at a time when there is a decline in global crude oil price, these acts of sabotage spell doom for Nigeria’s already troubled economy. A total of N103billion was spent by NNPC to repair damaged pipelines in 2015. With all these happenings, ToyinAmao went to town to ask Nigerians how pirate attacks and pipeline vandalism hampering the country can be curbed.
The subject is a multifaceted phenomenon which requires a holistic approach. The issue of piracy as well as pipeline vandalism would reduce if the government introduces capital punishment for the culprits by ensuring that law enforcement agencies are seriously committed to dealing with the pirates as well as the vandals. We cannot completely eradicate these two endemic problems but they are national crisis which only require a tactical approach for us to grow the nation’s economy. It is just like a man suffering from HIV/AIDS, the disease isn’t curable but it could be managed. Also, a special law court should be established to hear such peculiar cases.
The security agents in charge of the pipelines should be properly screened before deployment to secure the pipelines, they should also be properly taken care of to enable them do their job well because it’s likely some of the security agents collaborate with vandals for money, especially oil bunkers. The vandals are mostly jobless youths; the government should look into it properly. Anything asides this, little would be achieved in the stoppage of these vandals. If the Navy protecting the sea borders are well equipped and taken care of, piracy attack will come to a standstill.
It all boils down to the fact that Nigerians are broke, any opportunity to get money, they jump at it and when they get what they want freely, they sell at any price and gain more. What can reduce these problems is if there are jobs in place and if government pays at the right time. Also, our seaports securities should tightened and motor boats for surveillance provided. Not just getting the equipment but the right authorities should be thoroughly taught on how to use them.
From my perspective, I believe the solution to pipeline vandalism is providing adequate security; both from human security to technology security. Strategies need to be implemented because human factors are responsible for all these problems. In as much as we want to curb this issue, we have to implement policies that will make things fall in place. Even in developed countries, they make use of this security measures to tackle problems. Piracy attacks can’t be stopped but it can be limited and it is still based on security. Maritime policy with sophisticated technologies would help tell where attacks are been carried out, when it was carried out, who carried it out and how it can be resolved. Piracy is recognised as an offence in every nation in the world. There is need to strengthen alliances to defeat piracy attacks across the world, most especially with neighbouring countries. I believe if these issues are addressed, the security institutions of not been able to meet up to the challenges would be forgotten.
You would notice that oil flows in the Niger Delta but there is little or no infrastructure over there. If the government must extract oil from a particular area, then the indigenes should also be beneficiaries. People vandalise pipelines because of poverty. Most of the people from Bayelsa State are fishermen but if schools and hospitals are built, good roads are done and social amenities provided. Most of the youths will stop vandalising pipelines.
I think government needs to put tight securities at the locations where pipelines are located and some form of neighbourhood watch should be adopted because the vandals are within the vicinity. Government should research on new technologies to secure the pipelines and engage locals in developmental programmes to desist from such acts.
To reduce pipeline vandalism which is a criminal act, the state of the economy would have to change; money laundering (bribery and corruption), illegal access to firearms should be checked and prevented. In reducing piracy, more funds should be allocated to the adequate training of officers carrying out the duty of guarding our waterways. They should be given adequate facilities needed in combating such menace.
The government need to handle these problems with appropriate hands and should be no more in support of amnesty programmes. They should engage with the local people in the regions where these problems are happening to partner in creating avenues to get the youths busy.
I think the best thing to be done is orientation; the youths need to be put through the fact that the pipeline they are vandalising is actually their money. It is basically tax payers’ money that flows through that pipe and is not for someone in government or someone in power, it is for everyone. Youths should be made to know this, so that they know this is not just somebody’s property. Secondly, I think that creation of jobs seems to be the only way out because even the Bible says that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So when you have nothing doing, you will begin to think of all sorts and this includes piracy too. In terms of pirate attacks, I really don’t know much about sea pirates but I think the first thing is when you take youth off the streets, you give them something tangible to do; they will think less of how to do wrong things and how to hurt people. The youths provide majority of the manpower, you will hardly see an elderly person being a sea pirate or vandalising pipelines. They don’t have the strength for that, that is why am really emphasising on the youths. The brainwork may come from the elderly but the manpower comes from the youth. If the actions of the youths can be curbed, it will go a long way towards reducing these problems.
The ways at which pirate attacks can be curbed are to avoid discussing a ship’s route or cargo while in port, keeping constant watch in areas prone to piracy, avoid bottlenecks in shipping lanes, search the ship before leaving port to make sure no one is on board without authorization. It is easier to keep pirates from boarding than to force them to leave. Upon detecting the approach of pirates, a crew should call for help and warn other ships in the area, take evasive action and attempt to out-manoeuvre the attackers, sound the alarm, use the ship’s lights to illuminate the vessel and do anything else to make the pirates aware that they have lost the element of surprise.
However, experts discourage crew members from carrying firearms, since the presence of weapons can encourage attackers to respond with violence. Once the pirates board the ship, the crew’s first priority is to ensure their own safety. The crew should also try to stay in control of the craft and encourage the pirates to depart. In terms of vandalism, there is need for NNPC and other stakeholders to urgently invest in and deploy digital system of surveillance, including drones, which has the capacity to detect and report anywhere pipelines are tampered with. The government agencies spearheading these pipelines must engage in sensitization of citizens against wilful destruction of critical assets of the government; including oil pipelines as well as the consequences of pipeline vandalism.
Pirates attack and pipeline vandalism can be curbed through empowerment of the youths, creation of vocational institutions where youths can learn and have hands on knowledge in entrepreneurship. There should be availability of funds for start-up, creation of special task force that will combat sea pirates and equipping the task force with state of the art equipment, helicopters and sophisticated weapons. Lastly, employing indigenes of the oil region to be part of the task force and the residents of the region must be taken care of in terms of infrastructural development, electricity, roads and vocational centres.
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